Kayaking in Missouri – Lake Taneycomo

Kayaking in Missouri can be a wonderful adventure. If you need some ideas of where to get started, checkout my recent post.

I am going to focus on kayaking Lake Taneycomo, in Branson, Missouri for a minute. So, come take a trip with me and let’s explore a hidden kayaking gem.

Lake Taneycomo

Where is Lake Taneycomo

Lake Taneycomo is nestled in the heart of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. It’s name alone tells you where it is. Taneycomo is the combination of Taney County Missouri, or Taney co mo. I know, ingenious!

Branson is known for its musical shows ranging from Country to some good ol’ 50s and 60s, to some Classic Rock n Roll and sweet Gospel. Branson boasts of things to do with the family and lots of places to eat. It also has 1.5 miles of boardwalk along the bank of Lake Taneycomo that also houses the Branson Landing.

Lake Taneycomo was the first of now several reservoirs on the White River. It began in 1913 when the Ozark Beach Dam in Powersite was constructed. Nothing more than a widening of the White River and hosting a number of species of sport fish native to the river.

Lake Taneycomo became the first tourist attraction in the area and for 38 years hosted many sport anglers on the shores of Rockaway Beach. Everything changed in 1958 with the construction of Table Rock Dam 22 miles upstream.

After the construction of Table Rock Dam, the ecology of the lake changed. It is now being fed from 160 miles below the surface of Table Rock Lake. This caused the waters in Lake Taneycomo to drop significantly. The lake generally maintains a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees year round. The warm water species of the lake started to decrease in numbers and there needed to be a fix.

Why is it Unique

This is where the unique part of the lake comes in. As the waters got colder and the fishing declined the Missouri Dept. of Conservation scouted for ways to bring the Lakes fishing back up. So, the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was constructed and in come the rainbow and brown trout. Now the lake is stocked constantly with trout.

rainbow trout

If you like to fish there is no shortage of fish in Taneycomo. I personally have kayaked and fished it several times near the Branson Landing and in a few of the inlets nearby. Trout being the main fish in the waters these days, you can still catch bass, crappie, and walleye depending on the season and the way you hold your mouth.

If you have never fished froma kayak, I highly recommend you try it. Check out my post “Kayak fishing for beginners” and get all the scoop on how to get started.

Why Kayak Lake Taneycomo

Why not?

Actually, it really is a gem. There are several places to access Lake Taneycomo if you are looking to put in a kayak. There is public access at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, which is up at the Table Rock Dam. A little further down stream there is public access at Cooper Creek again at the Branson Landing and at Rockaway Beach. Those are the ones I know of for sure.

While normally Lake Taneycomo is a flat water float, it is dependent on the release of water from Table Rock as to how fast it is moving. Meaning that, if they are releasing a fair amount of water, it will not take to long to get downstream. If they aren’t, your arms may get a bit tired.

The scenery of Lake Taneycomo is stunning. Up by the dam you will find gravel bars and tree line shores. You can spot trout in the water underneath you and you will probably spot an eagle or two in the tree tops. As you move downstream the scenery will be spotted with houses and private boat docks with and occasional stream flowing into the lake.

Lake Taneycomo scenery

Watch out for the Canadian Geese and ducks, they are everywhere. The Great Blue Heron is a constant companion along the way hoping you will toss a morsel or unwanted catch. I have been lucky enough to see an occasional mongoose and otter along the way as well.

Because of the cold water of the lake it is not uncommon for the fog to roll in the evenings and hang out well into the morning. I haven’t had the pleasure of getting on the lake early enough to paddle in the fog yet, but I want too, with caution of course

Lake Taneycomo fog

Don’t overlook the little inlets either. Turkey Creek is straight across from the Branson Lakeside RV Park, which by the way is a great place to camp and launch your kayak. Also, downstream from the campground, just past the Branson Landing there is Roark Creek. In between the two is a smaller inlet that doesn’t go very far in before it becomes too shallow to navigate, but is very scenic to see.

Turkey Creek is where you can also find Branson Kayak. The most popular outfitter in town. So if you do not have your own kayak, no worries. They have you covered. It is also chock-full of wildlife. Everything from herons, ducks, turtles and the occasional snake.

Roark Creek is a popular fishing spot and scenic as well. Lots of turtles and bird life. Also, if you happen to float up Roark look out for the giant orange goldfish that hangs out by the boat docks.

Places to Stay

There are several options for accommodations on Lake Taneycomo. I mentioned the Branson Lakeside Rv Park earlier. It is a great RV park right in the heart of Branson. It is city owned and maintained. Clean amenities and right on the lake. You are also right next door to the Branson Landing. Just a few strides away you will find Bass Pro Shops for all your fishing needs and eateries to keep you from cooking. Although, nothing beats a campfire and some hot dogs and s’mores.

Branson Lakeside RV

Also, on the Lake is Cooper Creek Campground. I cannot vouch for Coopr Creek, I have never stayed there. I do know that they are right on Lake Taneycomo and there is a boat launch there. Also, right on the lake is Lilly’s Landing. Again, I have not stayed here, but I know they provide fishing guide services and boat rentals. I do not think they rent kayaks though.

There are also countless hotels, motels and resorts in the area. It is Branson after all.

Thoughts on the Hidden Gem

So, while Lake Taneycomo is not the most popular river or lake in Missouri to kayak on, it is certainly a gem to explore and fish.

The only downside in my opinion is the amount of powerboats on the lake during the busy season. The fishermen can get a little impatient when the fish are biting, so just be alert and aware of what is around you.

If you have had the pleasure of kayaking on the lake let me know your thoughts below. I would love to know about your experiences and see your photos. All the pictures here were taken by myself on the lake. So head over to the Facebook page and share yours.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking in Missouri

While I am relatively new at the whole kayaking thing, there are a bunch of peeps out there that are not. Thankfully, they too are willing to share their knowledge and adventures.

I have a huge desire to get out on the water and explore our country. Right now I am in the Branson area, and I am going to focus on Kayaking in Missouri.

Kayaking _Missouri_map

The Best Places to Kayak

I really do not know if there is a best place to kayak in Missouri. I do know that the part of the state that I have explored, either by foot, by car or by kayak is amazingly beautiful. The Ozarks are a world unto their own and have a beauty that is undeniable.

There are places that make you feel like you are in a fairy wonderland and there are the stunning blue lakes and streams that you can see every rock on the bottom.
Branson_bridge

Missouri has a ton to offer kayakers. Everything from beginner to experienced. There are small streams, large rivers, lakes full of fish, and historic sites all throughout the state. Rocky bluffs and caves sneak up on you. Waterfalls and pools of crystal clear water.

The Ozarks are a popular place to enjoy many outdoor activities. Kayaking/canoeing, hiking, fishing, and camping are just a few of the fun things to do. There is a wide array of State Parks and natural areas to explore.

kayakinginmissouri_tablerocklake

So, lets get started and check out some popular places to go with our tiny boats.

Southeast Missouri

In Southeast Missouri, there are several hot spots for paddlers and kayakers alike. From the popular Current River to the Eleven Point River to the Meramec River. These are just a few that I found listed. There are so many to explore. You can find a full list of Missouri rivers here.

The Current River starts in the Southeastern part of the Ozarks and joins up with the Black River and flows into Arkansas. It is a popular river for floating, fishing and camping. The Current River is approximately 184 miles long and in 1964 about 134 miles of the upper course and its tributaries were federally protected as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This was the first National Park to protect a river system.

The Current River begins in the Montauk State Park. The Montauk Spring combined with the confluence of Pigeon Creek make up the headwaters of the Current River. After leaving the Montauk State Park the river passes by many springs, several tributaries and flows through the beautiful Ozarks.

About 52 miles from the headwaters, the Current river receives its largest tributary the Jacks Fork River near the small town of Eminence, Missouri.

The Current River also boasts as having the largest spring in the Ozarks dumping into its waterway known as the Big Spring. This happens a few miles after passing by Van Buren, Missouri and under US Rt. 60.

From there the river travels Southeasterly out of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways 105 miles from the headwaters. It eventually runs through the Mark Twain National Forest and into Arkansas where it runs into the Black River.

The Current River is a very popular summer destination for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it is considered a mostly calm river with some class 1 rapids, there are a few that could be considered class 2 rapids.

Some awesome things to look out for along your adventure are: The Montuak State Park (trout park), The Current River State Park, Welch Spring and Abandoned Hospital, Akers Ferry, Cave Spring, Devil’s Well, Deer Leap, Rockhouse Cave, Pulltite Spring, Round Spring, Jack’s Fork, Blue Spring, and Big Spring.

Keep your eyes open as you will see beautiful rocky cliffs and dolomite bluffs, caves, springs, hardwood trees and gravel bars. Take your fishing pole and camera, you are sure to catch some great shots and possibly a fish or two. Also, watch out for those motor boats. Summer weekends will get busy for sure.

The Eleven Point River is another popular river in the Southeast portion of the Ozarks. In 1968 a 44-mile stretch of the Eleven Point River starting in near Thomasville, Missouri and ending near the Highway 142 bridge was selected to be added as one of the original eight rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Although, the river is about 138 miles long in total and eventually runs into the Spring River in Arkansas.

The Eleven Point is considered a year round river with approximately 30 natural springs feeding it. The largest is also the second largest in the Ozarks, known as Greer Spring.

Even though, in drought circumstances, some areas may need you to do a little walking. It is generally an easy river for the experienced paddler, but with some Class 1 and Class 2 rapids on the International scale, it is recommended that beginners be cautious.

Be prepared also for some spectacular scenery and the occasional wildlife encounter, as it runs through the Mark Twain National Forest. The area below Greer Spring is known as the Irish Wilderness. Full of lush greenery and rolling hills, caverns and sinkholes. It is totally recommended to take a camera along, but make sure you have it in a dry bag.

Also, on certain parts of the river be prepared to meet up with the occasional boat with motor. As they are allowed to have up to a 25 hp motor on certain stretches.

The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in the state of Missouri. From its starting point at near Salem till it dumps into the Mississippi River near St. Louis, it is 218 miles long and encounters 14 Missouri counties.

While the Meramec is a rather large river and can be navigated pretty much year-round, the majority of paddlers stick to a 67-mile stretch of the river between the Maramec Spring to the Meramec State Park. There is excellent access and many outfitters situated along the route.

The Meramec winds its way through the Mark Twain National Forest, through the limestone Meramec caverns and several tributaries intersect with the river for your delight. The Meramec is a Class 1, mostly flat water river that offers great fishing, scenery, wildlife and caverns. The Meramec State Park offers hiking trails and over 40 caves to explore, in addition to other outdoor activities to keep you busy off the water.

The Meramec is surrounded by history. The earliest explorer of the river was a French Jesuit Priest by the name of Jacques Gravier. He was a missionary to the new world and traveled the river between 1699-1700.

It is also hard to believe that at one time the Meramec was labeled as on of the most polluted rivers in Missouri. Since then state and local governments have taken extensive measures to clean it up and it now has a great diverse ecology and is home to many species of fish and other wildlife.

The tributaries include the Big River, Bourbeuse River, Courtois Creek and the Huzzah Creek. All of which are great flat water waterways for exploring the Ozarks.

 

Southwest Missouri

The Southwest portion of Missouri is just as beautiful as the Southeast portion.

The White River is an interesting river with many tributaries and many lakes along its path. The White River is not solely in Missouri. It actually begins its journey in Arkansas in the Boston Mountains In the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest southeast of Fayetteville.

The White River then travels northward into Southern Missouri. Many modifications have been made to the river between its start in Arkansas till its end at the Mississippi River, again in Arkansas. Since 1913 there have been 8 dams erected on the White River, two in Missouri and six in Arkansas.

With that we now have Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake. While they are all man-made reservoir lakes, Lake Taneycomo still resembles a river.

Lake Taneycomo is still very river-like, even though there is a dam at both ends. It flows from the bottom of Table Rock Lake and is held in place by Powersite Dam. It flows through Branson, Missouri and Rock-Away Beach and is a gem. From Table Rock to Powersite it is about 22 miles.

Many kayakers enjoy floating down Taneycomo. It is home to some best trout fishing in Missouri as well as many bird species including Bald Eagles.

Kayaking in Missouri_Lake Taneycomo

Taneycomo is a flat water float and easy for beginners, but I think even experienced kayakers would enjoy the scenery and the fact that you can pull out right at the Branson Landing for food and drink.

The only real hazard on Lake Taneycomo is the onslaught of powerboats and fisherman that really do not pay much attention to who is on the water with them.

There are several small tributaries on Taneycomo that are worth the short jaunt off the lake. Turkey Creek and Roark Creek are the best known and do not have the boat traffic.

The James River, also a tributary or at least part of the White River Watershed Basin, is another great spot to check out. Before the formation of Table Rock Lake I am sure this river ran right into the White river. Now it runs from northeast Webster County and dumps into Table Rock. Along the way it forms Springfield Lake, in Springfield Missouri.

Large portions of this river are used for recreational activities and when water levels are right you could potentially paddle from the access on the downstream side of the dam at Springfield Lake for 3 solid days to Galena.

KayakinginMissouri_James_River

The James River winds southward through the Mark Twain National Forest and flows near the Wilson Creek Battlefield in Missouri. This site has significant history from the Civil War.

While the James is not as big on the paddlers list of rivers, it is still worth the trip and if you like to fish it is a great one to catch some fish on.

The Niangua River named by the Osage for a tribal leader {Neh-hem-gar} meaning bear, is a very popular river in the summer for floating and paddling.

The Niangua is a tributary of the Osage River and runs about 125 miles. It starts in Webster County and runs northward through 3 counties and runs through the Bennett Springs area, Lake Niangua and Ha Ha Tonka State Parks. It flows into the Osage River as an arm of the Lake of The Ozarks.

There are roughly 113.8 miles of river that are easily accessible to kayakers and paddlers. The Niangua River is wonderful for fishing as the Bennett Spring State Park is home to a trout hatchery for rainbow and brown trout. There are also many other species available for the anglers to harvest.

The river is surrounded by mostly state-managed conservation areas that hosts a number of hunters seeking deer, turkey, rabbits and other edible creatures. So I imagine that the scenery is just stunning and a camera is going to be a must.

Northeast Missouri

The Cuivre River in northeast Missouri is about 41.6 miles long. While, technically not considered to be in the Ozarks, it has all the trademarks of the foothills. As the northern part of Missouri is not as popular as the southern Ozarks, you likely will not be faced with as many people on the Cuivre River.

Most folks stay at the Cuivre State Park when visiting this neck of the woods. There are no campgrounds along the river other than this as far as I could tell. From my research, access is limited but some local outfitters can get you into some other spots other than the few public areas if you ask.

Fishing is a popular activity on the Cuivre as there are 71 species of fish in the river. So take your fishing pole and your camera to back up those fish stories.

The Salt River is a very history rich river. It is about 55 miles long, but since the construction of the Clarence Csnnon Dam in 1983, the first 15 miles of the river are contained in the Mark Twain Lake. Below the dam you can access this river and float its winding path towards the mighty Mississippi.

Mark Tain was born on the Salt River back in 1835 in the town of Florida. The Salt River was called the “Ohaha” by the Native Americans that lived along its course. So, you history buffs will really enjoy this adventure.

According to my research and some helpful folks here on the internet I have discovered that the water levels on the Salt River are primarily controlled by how much water the Corp. of Engineers are letting out that day. So, this river is probably a great one for beginners looking for a smooth float.

Also, they said that the scenery is beautiful and full of birds, butterflies and even the occasional otter. Fishing is also something worth trying while you are drifting along. So, a pole and a camera are a must.

Northwest Missouri

Okay, so floating in the northwest portion of Missouri is doable, but more of a challenge. Access to a lot of the rivers may be limited and you are not going to find the crystal clear waters of the Ozarks. But do not give up yet.

The Platte and The Grand Rivers are both tributaries of the Missouri River and are unique in their own way. Both are rich with history and offer gentle flowing waters for leisurely floats. They say the best time to float the Grand River is in the spring and fall while the migration of the birds is in its height.

The Grand River as several wildlife refuges along its course, so it attracts many bird species.

The Platte River is a playground for Kansas City, but offers many gravel bars and places to pull up and camp. While the northern portion has been channeled, the lower portion between Agency and Platte City can be twisty and navigable most of the year.

Then we have The Missouri River. It is the longest river in North America and enters Missouri in the northwest corner and winds its way south then southeast then east till it reaches the Mississippi River on the northern side of St. Louis.

The Missouri serves many purposes and offers floaters many opportunities to float its waters in many location throughout the state. It has a massive amount of tributaries along its path and many of them offer kayaking adventures for people to enjoy. The “Float Missouri” website offers an extensive list of access points for people to utilize.

That is the Short List

So, here is a very short list of some great places to get you started in the great state of Missouri. I have a huge bucket list my self of places I want to explore while I am here. As I check off my list, I will add more info about them on this site. My research here has just increased the size of my list and I can’t wait to get started.

If you have floated any of these or other rivers in Missouri, please leave you opinion in the comments or on my Facebook Page. I would love to hear of your adventures and see pictures.

Until Next Time!